A Helping Hand

Story/Video posted April 16, 2018 in Arts & Entertainment by Imaani Allen .


Penn State senior Andrew Cacchio (architecture major) spends his spare time helping disabled children have more normal lives. He does this with  3-D printers and help from his friends in Penn State's Digi Digits club.

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Cacchio is the president of Digi Digits. The club designs, creates and modifies 3-D printed prosthetic training devices for children at an affordable cost. Most students in the club have a background in engineering. The clubs meet three times a week to work on the designs.

According to PBS.org, a traditional prosthetic made out of titanium, for example, can cost up to $40,000.  According to BioTechPossibilites.com, some insurance companies are less likely to offer coverage for prosthetic limbs, to kids because they are still growing.   This is where 3-D printed training devices come in as the second-best option. It allows families looking for at less expensive solution to best suit their child’s needs. Another financial benefit of using a 3-D models prosthetics is that if it breaks or the child out grows it, a new model is not out of reach.  The club is able to cover the cost of the prosthetic training devices through sponsors and donations. The family does not have to pay for anything out of pocket.

Cacchio found a small space in the Stuckeman building for the club to work on projects.  It includes three large tables and four printers.

“I wanted to design a space for us to come together and work,”  Cacchio said.

An organization called e-Nable connects Digi Digits with families of children in need of prosthetic training devices. Cacchio is responsible for leading the club meetings and assigning jobs to team members.

There is a four-step process that the Digi Digits team must go through before the prototype is created. First, the group analyzes the problem and tries to come up with solutions. Next, they hand draw the design of the device and use a 3-D modeling program.

During this process, team members consult with Cacchio about other things that might need to be added.  After the final approval from Cacchio, the prototype is created. The club maintains contact with the families to answer questions. If there is an issue, such as small pieces falling off or if the prosthetic is too small, Cacchio and his team will make the necessary adjustments. Cacchio says it is a lengthy process, but the end result is worth it.

“We want to create the best hand possible. Which is why I like to establish deadlines to make sure we are using our time wisely,” Cacchio said.

Cacchio plans to stay in touch with Digi Digits after he graduates in May.

Video: Patience is key

 The total print time can range anywhere from 20 mintues to 15 hours. Before the model prototype is ready for use. Speeding up the process can mess up the design. Cacchio explains what factors determine the amount of time it will take for a 3-D model to be complete.